Alex Nedejlkovic did what he could in net until the game degenerated into a blowout, but the Detroit Red Wings’ inability to make something out of their power play cost them against a division rival.
Sunday’s matinee against the Boston Bruins at Little Caesars Arena ended in a 5-1 loss for the Wings, their second straight at home. They squandered four power plays before the Bruins took command in the third period, turning a one-goal lead into a four-goal feast. Shots were 23-16 to Boston after 40 minutes, and then 37-24 after 60 minutes.
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Nedejkovic was busy in his first start in more than two weeks. Tyler Bertuzzi was the first to score, but Patrice Bergeron tied it in the first period. Erik Haula put the Bruins ahead in the second when he ripped a shot that beat Nedeljkovic glove-side.
“We got through the first lucky a little bit,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Could have been worse than 1-1. They came and competed harder than us in the first. Our competition level was better in the second. We have to find a way to score on the power play, or build momentum off it. Then we weren’t good enough in the third – we made some defensive blunders.”
Taylor Hall, the former league MVP, created a two-goal cushion when he wheeled the puck around Detroit’s zone and sent a really nice pass to Charlie McAvoy at 5:59 of the third period. Trent Frederic piled on two minutes later, suffocating the Wings’ chances of staging a comeback. Former Wing Tomas Nosek, lost in the 2017 Vegas expansion draft, piled on at 10:39.
Nedeljkovic hadn’t played since a rough outing Dec. 16 at Carolina, a 5-3 loss against his former teammates. The next day Nedeljkovic was placed in COVID-19 protocol. On Sunday, Nedeljkovic had made a dozen saves, including one on Oskar Steen from his doorstep, before giving one up at 14:47 of the first period. Brad Marchand — booed every time he touched the puck — won a battle in the corner and got the puck to Craig Smith, who fired it out front for Bergeron to finish the play. It was a busy stretch for Nedeljkovic, with shots favoring Boston, 15-6, in the first 20 minutes.
Bertuzzi picked up his 13th goal of the season because of his fondness for being around the net. Danny DeKeyser got the puck from Dylan Larkin and fired a shot towards the crease. The puck squirted loose and Bertuzzi was in position by the right post to tap it in into an open net. It was Bertuzzi’s fourth goal in four games after a quiet stretch (no goals, three assists) in 11 games from Nov. 9-Dec.14.
Wings coach Jeff Blashill emphasized disciple during Saturday’s practice, the day after Robby Fabbri was in the penalty box when the Capitals scored the winning goal. Fabbri took another interference penalty 1:13 into the game, but the Wings killed that off. Tempers flared in the second period — Marchand used several whacks to engage Vladislav Namestnikov in a fight three minutes in, and Sam Gagner and Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman ended up with offsetting penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct two minutes later.
Contact Helene St. James at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.